The Library of Babel

There’s a story written in 1941 by Jorge Luis Borges called “The Library of Babel” that describes a library that contains every single possible 410 page book written with a basic alphabet. The ordering of the books is random and most of the books contain gibberish, but this library also contains every book ever written.

And every book never written.

And alternative versions of every book ever written.

Pause a moment and think about that.

Let’s go a step further. In that library is a vivid description of your death. And the lottery numbers for next week. Every single useful piece of information is in this library. Everything. This sounds like fiction, right?

It exists on the internet: – You should go browse it.

For example, here is the first page of Genesis. Here’s the powerball numbers for 12/24/2016. Both of these books can be found by browsing. They are in the same place in the library for me (writing this) as for you.

In Borges’ story, “librarians” roam the library looking for a mythical index that provides order to the library. In theory, you could do this as well – you could start browsing the library looking for predictions of the future. It’s a fact that it’s contained in there.

But good luck. To say that 99% of the Library of Babel is gibberish is a gross understatement. That’s what is beautiful about the Library of Babel – it’s a fantastic demonstration that “meaning” is something we provide.